Recently, on a foray through social media, I came across a trending story from the Washington Post: the United Arab Emirates, in a desperate bid to increase their average rainfall, was looking into the feasibility of building a man-made mountain.
A quick online search verified that the journalist was not delusional- not only was this something that the UAE government was looking into but the Netherlands had also entertained the idea awhile back. The Dutch scrapped the idea after the cost and logistics were recognized as ludicrous.
I was curious about how building a mountain seemed like a logical next step to increase precipitation. Apparently earlier attempts at cloud seeding (also a thing I didn’t know existed- it entails launching ice nuclei into clouds to induce rain) resulted in record rainfall of 11 inches in less than 24 hours across the UAE. In a country where the average rainfall is usually below 5 inches per year, this sudden deluge wreaked havoc so they were looking for another solution.
Two simultaneous thoughts entered my mind: on one hand, the verse from Amos 5 which has long been a favorite of mine: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was the flooding perhaps justice for their audacious actions? On the other hand was, “Wait! Flooding and natural disasters of that magnitude are incredibly devastating to people and their environments. That isn’t something I would wish on someone!”
I had to pause for a second. Doing the kind of work I do, and working with the people I work with both within RfA and ecumenically, I talk and hear a lot about justice. About wanting justice to come down. About bringing justice. But if justice is going to roll down like waters and ever-flowing streams, just how devastating could that be for some people? And if we’re called to help bring about that justice, whom do I love that could see their lives upended?
My own experiences at the recent RCA Special Council reminded me that although there are many people in the church that I disagree with very passionately, I can still love them. As I looked around my small group, I saw people who remind me so much of my own family members- people I often disagree with about many things but whom I love so deeply and who also love me. How could I want to cause them pain?
Maybe I’m entirely wrong; it’s happened once or twice that I’m aware of. Maybe creating a just world and country and church would be a perfectly smooth transition for everyone and cause no discomfort or fear. But I think most of us would agree that’s not likely. The more I get to know people who disagree with me about LGBTQ inclusion in the church, the more I begin to understand their position. Not agree with it by any means, but understand how their lives led them to the conclusions they’ve come to. I’ve been able to see them and know them as people, and not as adversaries or monsters. And I’ve also gotten to know that a world that’s entirely just (from my perspective) would directly and indirectly threaten a lot of things they’ve held dear for so long.
And so I wonder: when I wish for the mighty roaring waters of justice to come down for those who are discriminated against and marginalized, what am I wishing for those who aren’t? How do I care for my friends who will lose their metaphorical homes in the flood that’s coming? How do I understand their fear and uncertainty and help them build a new home in this world of justice? How do I help them understand that this new world will truly have room for all, including them?
I don’t have nearly as many answers as I have questions. As eager as I am to see this flood come full force, I’m aware that as someone with loads of privilege, my landscape will change too. And while creating a welcoming and affirming church indeed feels like we’ve signed on to build a multi-billion dollar man-made mountain at times, the moments when we see progress and feel the trickle of rain begin are so immensely refreshing.
I don’t know exactly how I’ll handle this flood of justice, should it come in my lifetime, or how I’ll help my friends and loved ones navigate these currents. In the meantime, though, I’ll be over here launching ice nuclei into clouds. You’re welcome to join me.
Cameron Van Kooten Laughead (van KOE-ten LAW-head) is RfA’s Community Coordinator. Originally from Pella, IA, he and his husband have settled in Columbus, OH.